The San Jose Earthquakes versus the Columbus Crew will feature two MLS originals this weekend when the teams take the field at MAPFRE Stadium. The Quakes will be looking to snap a five game winless streak as they have yet to earn three points since the opening game of the season, a 3-2 win against Minnesota United.
Head coach Mikael Stahre was encouraged by the play of his team last weekend in a 3-2 loss at Orlando City SC, despite the result, and is hoping for a more elevated performance against the Crew, both on offense and defense.
“We have to improve our attacking game, but also we have to concede fewer goals, that’s for sure,” Stahre told The Athletic earlier this week. “We have conceded too many goals so far this season, but we have scored goals every game as well. In our losses so far, they have all been by one goal, so we are still in the games.”
Heading into the day, the Earthquakes were third from bottom of the table on five points. Incidentally, though more due to their participation in the knockout stage of the recently completed CONCACAF Champions League, the two teams below San Jose won the last two MLS Cup championships: the Seattle Sounders (4 points) and Toronto FC (3 points). Those two teams have the talent to be back in the race in short order, but the Quakes don’t yet look like a playoff quality team.
The Crew are also having a tough go of it this month, following up a streak of three wins in four games with three losses in their last four played. Gregg Berhalter’s team is lead on offense by Gyasi Zardes, with the former LA Galaxy forward tallying five goals already this season. Designated player Federico Higuain is still the man in the middle for Columbus, as the Argentine playmaker sets the pace for the Crew in attack.
The Earthquakes lineup is sure to have some changes following their 3-2 loss to the Lions last weekend. Harold Cummings, who finished a two-game suspension for violent conduct in the draw at Philly, is available for selection at centerback, and he might step back into the starting eleven for either Francois Affolter or Yeferson Quintana. The former has looked good in his two games played while Cummings sat out, while the latter has started every game this season and scored a goal.
In the previous two games, Stahre benched a star player in an effort to shake up the formation. First it was club captain Chris Wondolowski riding the pine against Houston, the first game in many years that the forward missed a game while available for selection. Against Orlando, it was Vako taking a seat on the substitutes’ bench, as Jahmir Hyka earned his first start of the season at left midfielder. Stahre has made it clear that he is not wed to a specific lineup and formation six games into his rookie MLS season as head coach.
Whatever the result in Columbus, the Quakes return home from their long road trip and will get ready for the visit of the Portland Timbers to Avaya Stadium next Saturday. While sub-par results against Eastern Conference opponents have less of an effect on the Quakes playoff hopes, games against the West take on more urgency. These Earthquakes, if they are going to be taken seriously as team to beat, can’t afford too many more missteps.
When: April 28, 4:30 p.m. Pacific Time
Where: MAPFRE Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
Broadcast: NBC Sports California Plus, KNBR 1050
Live Stream: ESPN+